Abolishing Nuclear Weapons: Why the United States Should Lead

Policy Outlook
Efforts to re-invigorate a movement to abolish nuclear weapons are rising on the international agenda. The next U.S. president should emphasize the goal of abolishing nuclear weapons in an effort to: prevent proliferation, prevent nuclear terrorism, reduce the threat of nuclear annihilation, and foster new optimism for U.S. global leadership.
Related Media and Tools

Efforts to re-invigorate a movement to abolish nuclear weapons are rising on the international agenda, made clear in statements by the U.S. presidential candidates, British and Indian leaders, and a campaign led by former U.S. officials. For states without weapons, talk of nuclear disarmament is embraced as a welcome change, but viewed with skepticism. The next U.S. president should emphasize the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, explains George Perkovich in a new report.

Perkovich outlines four security areas where the long-term project of abolishing nuclear weapons would best serve U.S. interests: preventing proliferation, preventing nuclear terrorism, reducing toward zero the threat of nuclear annihilation, and fostering new optimism for U.S. global leadership.
Requirements for abolition of nuclear weapons include:
  • Strengthening verification and enforcement mechanisms, which augment U.S. and global security at a time when nuclear industry is rapidly expanding.
  • Gaining the support of non–nuclear-weapon states for strengthened nonproliferation rules, inspections, and controls over fissile material through commitment to the elimination of nuclear arsenals.
  • Accounting for and controlling the nuclear materials necessary to enable disarmament, greatly reducing risks that terrorists could acquire these materials. 
  • Wider understanding that nuclear deterrence is not a fail-safe; the long-term answer to proliferation concerns is to reduce the number and salience of nuclear weapons to zero.
Perkovich concludes:
“The elimination of all nuclear arsenals is not an end in itself. It is a means to global security. The verification and security conditions that would be required to enable the abolition of nuclear weapons are all conducive to a more secure world. Therefore, the goal of abolishing nuclear weapons can be a beneficial organizing principle of the national security policies of major states. The next U.S. administration should be one of its champions.”

About the Author

George Perkovich is vice president for studies–global security and economic development and director of the Nonproliferation Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His personal research has focused on nuclear strategy and nonproliferation, with a focus on South Asia and Iran, and on the problem of justice in the international political economy.

End of document

About the Nuclear Policy Program

The Carnegie Nuclear Policy Program is an internationally acclaimed source of expertise and policy thinking on nuclear industry, nonproliferation, security, and disarmament. Its multinational staff stays at the forefront of nuclear policy issues in the United States, Russia, China, Northeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East.

Source http://carnegieendowment.org/2008/10/21/abolishing-nuclear-weapons-why-united-states-should-lead/h1na

In Fact



of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

Stay in the Know

Enter your email address to receive the latest Carnegie analysis in your inbox!

Personal Information
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20036-2103 Phone: 202 483 7600 Fax: 202 483 1840
Please note...

You are leaving the website for the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy and entering a website for another of Carnegie's global centers.